Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Not Enough Hours In The Day! And Other Very Wrong Things In My Book World

I am convinced time is hiding from me.  It especially slips away when I'm reading blogs or writing one of mine.  I think it ratchets up to warp speed.  Next thing I know, two hours have passed and my to-do list is gathering dust.

I didn't get all the books read this past week that I had listed to read last week.  Boo hoo. I've even taken up riding the bike at the gym more often each week so I have 30 minutes of reading time at the gym.  Kinda hard to read while lifting weights, so I won't try.  But trust me--I have put some thought into the possibility.  I could make millions if only my brain would produce a useful idea for this!

And why, oh why can't I run this body on just 4 hours of rest?  It would make my reading time that much longer.  And that darn lottery--I really should win so I can buy all the books I want, build a house for them, then sit there and read whenever I want.  I'm sure it's just a matter of time before I become a lottery winner.  Meanwhile, I'll just keep compiling my list of books for that little house.

What am I reading this week?  Well, here are a few I have on my list:

Amish vs Vampires

Meetings between famous people

Murder at a plantation 

Jazz Age New York and magic
I'm still working on the books I didn't finish last week.  With a teen book talk coming up in a few weeks I'm focusing on reading more teen novels--and then I have two book talks in one day later in October, so trying to read for that audience, too.  Luckily these are all books I want to read--no list that I have to adhere to for these talks.  Talking about books I love and have read makes standing up in front of people and giving speeches a little less horrifying!

What are you reading this week?  Are you going to read Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling when it goes on sale Thursday?

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Finally, a teen book that has a different story--one that I would have gobbled up as a teen myself, and found myself reading with building excitement the past few days.

The Raven Boys is the kind of book that I love, and brings out the nerdy, geeky mythology/psychic/otherworldly kid in me.  Blue is a young teen who lives with her mother and a whole houseful of eccentric psychics.  Blue herself doesn't have one drop of any psychic gifts, but what she does have makes her valuable:  she can amplify the psychic abilities of those around her.  She's like a battery with extra zip.  All her life she's been told by countless psychics (and her mother) that the true love of her life will die if she kisses him.  Not interested in boys, Blue hasn't really thought too much about it.

Until she meets Adam and Gansey, two of the Raven Boys.  They both attend the local boys school Aglionby Academy--a well do to school located in the tiny town of Henrietta.  What makes this story take a turn is that Blue has seen the spirit of Gansey on St. Mark's Eve, the night when the spirits of people who will die that year walk the dead road.  He's the only spirit Blue has ever seen, and she's told it's because he is either the love of her life, or she'll be the death of him.  Oops.

Blue soon finds herself befriending Adam, who's one of Gansey's close friends.  Blue likes Adam, and to keep things safe, won't let him kiss her just in case she got it wrong and he's the love of her life.  There's no kissing happening in this book, which was refreshing!  The "romance" was not the center of this story.  It is an integral part of the story, but this is by no means a paranormal romance like most teen novels in that sub-genre.

What I so enjoyed was the obsession Gansey has with finding Glendower, an Welsh King who is rumored to be buried somewhere along a ley line that runs through Henrietta.  He's quietly slumbering, waiting for someone to find him.  That someone is Gansey--he's filled a journal with his research, spends all his time outside of school looking for the ley line, and has drawn his small circle of friends into the search.  It's his life mission.  Gansey and his friends are all very complex characters that Maggie  Stiefvater has drawn very well--she leaves you with lots of questions, but enough hints about the boys' backgrounds that you're not frustrated.

This is a good thing, since this is the first in a series.  I loved the moody atmosphere, the legend of Glendower, the mystical forest, and the ancient magic that's involved.  The characters are all well drawn, and Blue is a great female lead.

Rating:  4/5 for an intriguing story, great characters, and a well written novel.  Can't wait for the sequel!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Power of Poppy Pendle by Natasha Lowe

This was the cutest little book!  Poppy Pendle is a young girl who was born in a bakery.  From that moment on, she's loved to bake, and has an extraordinary talent.  

But she's a witch.  A really good witch.  Her parents (particularly her mom) are so excited she's a witch, they enroll her in the local school for witches-Ruthersfield Academy.  It's a big deal to be enrolled at the academy, and Poppy has such a natural talent for spells and flying on a broomstick she's soon at the top of her class.

But she hates being a witch.  She just wants to bake.  Her parents aren't understanding at all, and Poppy runs away to stay at the patisserie in town with Marie Claire, the owner and baker.  

But there's trouble, and Poppy's unhappiness explodes into a disastrous event.  Can she find happiness and also make her parents happy?

I loved this book!  Poppy is adorable, and her passion for baking shines through the story.  This book is a great reminder to young readers to follow your passion.  It also includes recipes at the end of the book for all the goodies Poppy whips up throughout the book.  

Rating:  4/5.  A cute young reader book for the little baker in your life.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Boneshaker by Kate Milford

I have missed reading my young reader books!  It seems like I have so much adult and teen books waiting in the  piles around my house that the young reader novels fall to the wayside.  I may have to dedicate a month to reading kids books in 2013.  

But!  I have been reading other book blogs, and The Boneshaker  by Kate Milford has popped up a few times--with the kind of reviews that peaked my interest.  And at the super deluxe cheapo price of $6.99 you too can read a great book that will keep you and any young reader up late into the night.  

I will say this is a book that should be geared towards kids along the ages of 10+. There are some terms and ideas in here that might be a bit confusing for the younger crowd.  I myself had to page back a few times to re-read a few scenes to get them clear in my mind.

With that said, I loved this book.  The back cover says it is reminiscent of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes and I have to agree on that point.  A small town in Missouri--Arcane-- set in early 20th century. Not too far away, the old ruins of the original Arcane--set at a crossroads.  A young girl, Natalie, who's currently engrossed in building the perfect automaton, mastering riding her red bike, and working with her Dad in his garage full of wheels, gears, and all sorts of wonderous things.  She's the kind of girl most of us wanted to be at 13:  smart, tough, and courageous.  

Enter in Limberg's Nostrum Fair and Technological Medicine Show.  A traveling show full of odd--very odd-characters, lead by Dr. Jake Limberg--a creepy red haired man who wears leather gloves and sets Natalie's weird radar on high alert.  There's something not quite right about this traveling show, and only a few people in the town of Arcane recognize evil when it rolls into town and set up shop in an abandoned field.  It's up to Natalie to figure out just what's going on before it's too late to save Arcane.  

Loved the characters in this story, and the great feel of small town America at the turn of the 20th century--when people still believed in magic potions, guitars that played otherworldy music, and most important of all--the power of storytelling.  

My rating:  4/5 for an original story--golly, I wish I could write like this!  And the black and white pencil drawings throughout the novel add to the story.  

And just in time:  the prequel to The Boneshaker is out!  The Broken Lands takes place on Coney Island in the 19th century.  Oooh, can't wait to read it!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What I'm Reading This Week-Sept 17th

I love Fall.  Nights start earlier, cooler temps, hot tea and muffins.  And books. I've received a lot of ARCS the past few weeks, and have an overstuffed Nook full of books to read, too.  So this week I'm focusing on these wonderful books:

Reading this right now--love it!

On my Nook

Jasper Fforde's first novel for teens

Creepy forest, people trying to get out!

ARC received! Out in October

I've got an awful lot of good stuff to read.  Bring on the gloomy days, chilly nights, and plenty of quiet time to read. Let's hope I can stick to my list--always another book to distract me.   What are you reading these days?

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman

Women's reproductive issues are certainly still making headlines in today's world, and this book reminded me that women have been fighting for reproductive issues for most of the 20th century--and now into the 21st century.  

The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman is a historical novel set in West Virginia in 1930.  The Depression has just started, and the people of Hope River are feeling the effects more than many other places:  the coal mines are shutting down, and people are losing businesses and homes every day.  Poor becomes destitute.  But babies still keep coming along, and that's where Patience Murphy steps in.  She's the midwife for those women who can't afford to go to a hospital (which is the majority) or won't go to a hospital.  Having a baby at home is, for most, the only way--and a midwife is crucial for the safe delivery of the child and the health of the mother.  Patience is fairly new to midwifery; she's only been on her own for a short time, ever since Mrs. Kelly, the former midwife died.  Patience is a smart woman and learns quickly. 

Patience has a background that sounds like a soap opera--it went from bad to worse, and this is sprinkled in throughout the novel.  I found it a bit confusing at first to have these throwbacks to Patience's past, but I soon got the hang of the rhythm of the story and understood these episodes explained much about Patience and why she ended up in Hope River.  Being a midwife in 1930's West Virginia is fraught with danger--she is forbidden to "examine" a woman in labor--she can get arrested.  And because of her past, the last thing Patience wants to do is call attention to herself.  

But as Patience attends more births, and brings along her new assistant--a young black woman named Bitsy--her reputation as a trusted midwife grows.  There are people around who don't like that she's taking care of both the black folks and the white folks, and the poor coal miners scattered around Hope River.  Add in rumblings of the KKK in the area, and it's a recipe for trouble.

There is some hope for Patience, though.  The local vet, Dr. Hester, lives a few miles down the road, and they soon develop a friendship--could it lead to happiness for both of them?  

I did like this novel.  It was gritty, full of medical information about midwifery and early 20th century rural medicine, and had a main character who grew in strength and confidence as the novel progressed.  The author's experience as a midwife in West Virginia certainly gave this novel an extra boost of authenticity.   If you liked The Birth House by Ami McKay, you should pick this one up!

Rating:  4/5 for setting, character development, and midwifery information.  A well written novel about people struggling to find their place in the world.

Available as a paperback or an e book in your local bookstore.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Getting Over Mr. Right by Chrissie Manby

I needed a break from reading historical fiction and ghost novels, so I found Getting Over Mr. Right by Chrissie Manby on my Nook and quickly began reading it.  

Ashleigh is a 32 year old single woman living in London and working at an ad agency.  She's been through the dating scene and is pretty much convinced she'll never meet Mr. Right.  Until she meets Michael, a slightly shabby accountant who just may be Mr. Right.

Fast forward two years, and Michael has been promoted, bought a shiny new flat and car, and dresses a lot better.  He's also dumped Ashleigh on Facebook--and horrors--defriended her.  

Ashleigh goes off the deep end and the majority of this novel is about her determination to win Michael back from his new girlfriend.  Ashleigh quite frankly loses her mind!  We've all had heartbreak, and yes, it does take a while to move through it.  Ashleigh embraces it with a death grip and doesn't let go--stalking Michael, missing work, dying her hair brown to match his girlfriend's and ultimately alienating friends and family with her crazy shit.  It's funny and not so funny.  It gets old.  I found myself shouting at her to get it together!!  Arrgh!

I will say Ashleigh does have a  great supporting cast of characters around her, and the story does take a nice turn--until the last few pages, where I was again stamping my foot and swearing at Ashleigh.  Yes.  Swearing at a make believe character.  The crazy had spread.  It reminded me of the movie Bridesmaids, and how the main character has to sink so low before she rises again.  Ashleigh sinks pretty darn low.

I'll give this one a 2/5.  It wasn't a horrible novel and was entertaining for the most part when she was doing something other than obsessing.  I didn't like Ashleigh's obsession, her inability to listen to anyone at all, and her blatant disregard for the rest of her life and what she was doing to ruin it.  I guess I'm just old enough to look at this and realize it's not so funny to be so broken hearted over a loser that you have to rebuild yourself from the ground up.  It also reminded me of Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic novels.  I just couldn't wrap my brain around those, either.  

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo.  Well known Mexican painter.  Colorful character.  Married to Diego Rivera.  Mono-brow.
This is what I knew about Frida before I read this novel.  What I've learned has made me a Frida fan and wanting to read more about her amazing and tragically short life.

The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo by F.G. Haghenbeck is a whirlwind of color, imagination, recipes, and a life that seems like it couldn't possibly be true.  Yes, this is a work of fiction, but the outline of Frida's life written here is based on fact.  

What the author delves into is Frida's inner thoughts and imaginings.  Frida's life changes when she's in a horrible accident in her early 20's--her spine is fractured, leg broken, and she's impaled by a rod while riding a bus on her way to her boyfriend's home.  While she's lying in the wreckage, Frida has an encounter with her Godmother.  The Godmother is a mysterious veiled woman who makes a deal with Frida--she can survive her injuries, but it will mean a life filled with pain and heartbreak.  Frida isn't ready to die, so she accepts the offer.  For the rest of her life, she receives visits from her Godmother, who reminds Frida that she must honor her on the Mexican Day of the Dead, or she will not live to see another day.  Faithfully, Frida cooks up Mexican dishes and makes an altar to her Godmother every year, thus ensuring her life will continue.  Is this a figment of Frida's imagination, or did she cross over to a different realm and come back during her accident?  

Frida's life was filled with drama.  Married to the artist Diego Rivera, she follows him to the US as he paints murals in San Francisco, Detroit, and New York.  She's pretty miserable in the US and longs to be back in Mexico surrounded by the sights, smells, and comforts of home.  Her painting is sporadic, her health issues plague her all the time.  Diego is a notorious womanizer and cheats on a weekly basis with so many women it boggles my mind!  And Frida herself falls in and out of love with many men and women--her encounters with Georgia O'Keefe are fascinating.  Her devastation at not being able to carry a child is one of the most painful parts of her life, and one of the many things in which she never finds peace.

And there's also The Messenger.  A man on a white horse who Frida sees whenever someone is going to die.  She knows he's going to come for her when her time is up.  Is he another figment of an incredibly gifted imagination, or does she really see this harbinger of death that no one else sees?
Get it here

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Frida's world was such a colorful, epic place.  Just looking at some of her paintings, I can see all the pain she endured, and all the magic she saw in everything around her.  She was color, spice, pain, heartache, and mystical all rolled up into one tiny body.  And she was truly beautiful.  The author weaves a tale that is hard to put down, and leaves you wanting to read more about Frida and her life.  This is a great book for reading groups, anyone who likes strong female personalities, or those who love art.  Or someone like me--who wants to read a good story.  

Thanks to Atria Books for an advanced reader's copy.  This book was one of the highlights of my reading year!  

Rating:  4/5.  Frida's life as imagined through a private journal, recipes, and all the flavors our senses can bring us--she is brought to life in a blaze.  

This book is available in paperback at the end of September, and also as an e-book.